Cultural Indifference At The Public Inquiry By Tasha Brade – J4G Campaigner

The Inquiry is proving to have the most multicultural participants in an Inquiry that Britain has ever seen.

Whilst the corporate sector, the Local Authority and the Lawyers will likely be less diverse, we know that the vast amount of Core Participants will be from all over the world, have different faiths and will speak multiple languages.

This week at the Inquiry, Crew Manager Jamal Stern took the stand. Before he began giving evidence, Richard Millett QC offered his apologies to Firefighter Stern as he was about to be presented a Quran which was missing it’s cover. Might I add that no other witness has been presented a underprepared Holy Book.

Firefighter Stern decided to make his affirmation anyway.

After 13 months of the phrases ‘Institutional’ and ‘Cultural Indifference’, how was the Inquiry underprepared for it’s first Muslim witness? When we return from the summer break, will the Inquiry have remembered that they need to obtain a Quran with a cover, or will this be forgotten too? Will the Ethiopian Orthodox witnesses who will be due to take the stand later this year be presented with the correct Holy book?

It may seem like a small oversight, but it’s incredibly reflective of how those of other religions are treated on a daily basis within this Country – as well as being reflective of the way that certain witnesses who are not from the UK have been treated since the 14th June 2017.

This can be seen with the Home Office’s decisions to not extend Visas to immediate relatives of those that died at Grenfell Tower, and not having Visas ready for burials and the commemorative hearings, which some family members had to miss.

I hope that with the additional ‘diverse’ panel members chosen to join Phase Two, this habit will be broken. But as we know, if you have little or no experience in dealing with BAME individuals and communities, these oversights will only continue to happen.

By Tasha Brade (J4G Campaigner)

 

Horsham Solidarity Silent Walk – 14th July 2018

All across the country on the 14th of every month communities are organising walks to pay respect to those who died in the Grenfell fire and also raise awareness of the campaign for justice for their families and those who have been displaced as a result of this tragedy, many of whom still remain without a permanent home.

In response to the call for communities to join in solidarity with the Grenfell community, Horsham held its first silent walk on Saturday 14th July. The objective of these walks is to maintain a focus on Grenfell to ensure that those responsible are brought to account and those effected are appropriately compensated and receive justice as soon as possible.

Walkers processed silently from the Friends Meeting House through the town centre to Horsham’s council offices where in his supporting speech, David Hide, Chair of Horsham Labour Party, highlighted the need for those in power to always fully address their responsibilities to those to whom they owe duty of care.

Commenting afterwards David Hide said,

“We hope to organise a monthly event until such point the review delivers a satisfactory outcome for the Grenfell community. We would like to build this into a silent walk supported by all communities within Horsham. The next silent walk is planned for Tuesday 14th August at 7pm meeting outside the Friends Meeting House, all groups and individuals who share the objective of delivering justice for grenfell are welcome.”

‘The Two Steps to Justice’ by J4G Guest Writer David Lammy MP

David Lammy MP is the Labour MP for Tottenham.

Securing justice for the catastrophic Grenfell fire has two key components. First, those responsible for the gross corporate negligence and manslaughter need to be identified, arrested and sentenced. Second, the government needs to take steps to ensure that no tower block fire on the tragic scale of Grenfell is repeated. Over recent days, we have had progress on both of these counts, but over a year since 14th June 2017, full justice remains a long way off.

The Met Police has revealed that the Grenfell fire investigation has now moved onto a new phase. People will be interviewed under caution, as detectives consider who is responsible for “gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and breaches of the Health and Safety Act.” I see it as vital for the victims and for faith in the police that the individuals responsible are punished, as opposed to limiting retribution to fines for corporations. It is understandable that the police take their time to untangle the thousands of pages of evidence, but the perpetrators must be brought to justice as soon as possible.

On the second aspect of justice for Grenfell, the government is right to ban flammable cladding on new high-rises. However, this does not go nearly far enough. Why should residents in existing buildings, with similarly dangerous cladding, be expected to live under the spectre of fear? How are they expected to sleep at night?  The construction industry needs to be forced to wake up after Grenfell. A new era of construction, which prioritises fire safety, is vital, unless this industry wants even more blood on its hands.

By David Lammy MP For Tottenham

‘Time for the years of de-regulation, risk-taking and cost-cutting to come to an end’ By J4G Guest Writer Matt Wrack

Matt Wrack is the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union.

The Fire Brigades Union stands side by side with the North Kensington community as the terrible agonies of 14 June 2017 are replayed at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. The public is looking at the events unfolding, clearly wanting to know the truth, but also expecting like us, that the years of de-regulation, risk-taking and cost-cutting are to come to an end.

We want to see a complete and total ban of flammable cladding. It is shocking that more than a year after the Grenfell Tower fire that this killer material is still in use. We want to see an end to the privatization of the fire safety inspection regime which has driven down standards. It has created a system where private, uncertified inspectors rubber-stamp building works as they have to win the repeat business of building owners.

What is shocking and sickening is that a year after the fire, people are still not re-housed. A year on we have hundreds of buildings with the same cladding. A year on nothing has really been done. Imagine if this had been a terror attack. Any such attack – even with far fewer deaths – would have resulted in much greater action. Theresa May would probably have invaded a country by now.

But since this is 72 people who died in their own homes, we just see inaction and continued complacency.

The Fire Brigades Union stands side by side with the North Kensington community and with the bereaved, the survivors and other residents affected by the fire. We want the entire labour movement to stand with us and to ensure Grenfell becomes a central political issue which we do not allow to be brushed under the carpet. More than anything we need to achieve justice for Grenfell.

By Matt Wrack

J4G’s Questions To The Inquiry

This week, at the Inquiry, we heard further evidence from fire fighters who attended Grenfell Tower on 14th June 2017 and also evidence from Jo Smith, Senior Operations Manager, who attended the Control Centre after 2.00am on the night and on hearing the emergency calls from residents, indicated to the call handlers to tell residents to ‘leave the building’.

An apparent emerging theme this week was the inadequacy of communication methods and equipment available to our emergency services.

Additionally, this week, bereaved families have complained about the cramped conditions, with little sunlight at Holborn Bars. Again, paramedics had to attend to treat someone who fainted.

J4G questions to the Inquiry this week:

  • Why in 21stCentury Britain do we have an emergency service still reliant on outdated radio equipment?
  • Is it an indictment on government that our Fire Service had to rely on white boards, pens and ‘scraps’ of paper to record and communicate where residents were and what the conditions were in the Tower?
  • Why don’t our fire service have mobile phones that can record dialogue and be linked to an electronic recording system?
  • Should the Fire Service’s training budget be increased immediately?
  • Have the firefighters and officers who have given evidence so far; received adequate counselling for PSTD and trauma?
  • Is the Venue at Holborn Bars suitable for the Inquiry hearings?

‘The Grenfell Inquiry needs to reflect it’s diversity’ By Guest Writer Kate Osamor MP

The community living in Grenfell tower was representative of London in it’s wonderful diversity. Like many, I have been moved by the stories of people from all over the world who had made London their home and gave this city their hard work, love and solidarity. I, too, have been shocked by this devastating fire and the loss of so many lives, but I have also been amazed by the extraordinary spirit of community and togetherness that came out of it.

When marching with survivors on the anniversary of the fire on the 14th of June this year, some of whom lost friends or family members, I felt nothing but utter admiration for the courage and solidarity they showed.

The very least I expected from the Government after this tragedy, was for them to ensure that those who lost their homes were rehoused, that tower block residents across the country would be safe, and that the survivors and bereaved families could have full confidence in the ongoing public inquiry.

Over a year after the tragedy, only 39% of households have been rehoused permanently and the same cladding is still used in 470 high-rise blocks across the country, turning a tragedy into an outright scandal.

An Inquiry has finally been called, the first part of which started at the beginning of June. After strong public pressure and a hard-fought campaign by survivors and bereaved families, the Prime Minister agreed that a panel of experts with decision-making powers should be appointed to sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick. It was a very obvious requirement and I wish that families who had lost a loved one would have been left to grieve instead of being made to fight for fairness.

I have since been approached by members of the Grenfell community and they have one more request. They want assurances that they will all be heard, no matter where they come from or if they have the right papers. They want to be consulted about an event that changed their lives forever. They want justice.

By Kate Osamor MP – Kate Osamor is the MP for Edmonton and the Shadow Secretary of State for International Develeopment.

‘Let’s not forget the control workers’ By Guest Writer Lucy Masoud

As the Grenfell Inquiry enters it’s second month, each day and with every witness, we understand more the full extent of what actually took place on June 14th 2017. We have seen firefighters breakdown in tears as they describe the impossible situation they were in and the unimaginable sights they witnessed.

We are, of course, all united in our support and admiration for the brave men and woman firefighters who entered the Grenfell Tower  that night in order to save lives. But let us never forget the work of the control workers who took the emergency calls on that evening, and who although not physically present, nevertheless experienced the horrors of that night in the same way as the firefighters.

This week the first of the control workers to give evidence at the inquiry has taken the stand. As with previous witnesses, they will no doubt conduct themselves with dignity and pride. Many of the control workers on the night of Grenfell took multiple calls and would have heard unimaginable and extremely harrowing calls.

Lets hope the control workers receive the same respect and admiration shown to them as the firefighters have so far.

By Lucy Masoud – London Fire Brigade’s Union Treasurer & Head of FBU Discipline

What Questions Should The Inquiry Have Asked Last Week?

There was a focus last week on the ‘stay put policy,’; a policy the LFB use when fighting fire in high rise buildings. Most of the firefighters that gave evidence this week took the stand for several hours undergoing gruelling questioning and painfully recalling memories of what happen on that night. Their priority was to save lives, even if it meant at times risking their own.

There was also a focus on the lateness in implementing an evacuation policy and how ‘Order of Command’ and/or Rank dictates when and if a change in procedure can be made. Usually this is an officer not fighting the fire!

Evident last week, was that none of the firefighters were aware of any particular risks associated with the cladding.

Finally, the Home Office could force bereaved families with Core Participation Status to return home before the conclusion of the Grenfell Inquiry; as their visas are to be limited to six months.

Questions J4G would have asked this week:

  • Why in 21st Century Britain would our fire service have a shortage of basic equipment; including breathing apparatus, hose nozzles and door breaking equipment?
  • How can the fire service enable those actually fighting the fire to move from a stay put policy to an evacuation procedure policy with urgency rather than awaiting bureaucratic responses?
  • Do you think that the ‘stay put’ policy should be immediately suspended until all flammable cladding is removed from all buildings across the UK, and is completely banned?
  • Could recommendations following the Piper Alpha disaster 30 years ago, have made a difference or avoided the Grenfell Disaster?
  • By not issuing longer term visas to bereaved families, do you think that the Home Office is making the Inquiry is a ‘hostile environment’?
  • Do you think that the firefighters evidenced this week at the Inquiry showed us that these are ordinary firefighters who did extraordinary things on June 14th 2018?
  • Do we live in a society where some lives just don’t matter?

‘Everywhere I Look’ by Mrs Murray

Mrs Murray was a resident of Grenfell Tower. Thankfully, she and her family made it out in the early hours of that morning. Mrs Murray has written a powerful poem, and she’d like for us to share it with  you.

Everywhere I look
They can’t hold us down when we stand together,
we march in silence no matter the weather,
no matter the season,
We stand United,
together for a reason.

No, we’re not savage and no, we won’t scrap.
We’re smart,
you know we already know the hap,
The 411;
what’s going on.

You want us to act out dumb
so you can paparazzi that and show us to be wrong.
Try escape your fate, try deny us justice.
Do you really think we’re gonna have this?
Do you think that’s gonna fly?
Do you really think we’re gonna give u a bly?

When we gather in respect on these roads
that are scarred and coated by the dust of the bones.
The ones we lost, you could never replace,
you can see it from the mourned out looks on our face.
On our faces.
Different skin tones, all different types
but all of us, the human race.

How many of us have you left displaced?
Diaspora in our own land,
feeling like an outsider with my own brand,
Survivor chic donations old and new;
we are grateful for those who rode through.
The ones who still stand, forever we thank you.
We bear our scars inside and out,
Thank God from us who made it out.

‘Survive and rise’ is what is going on,
and if you try stop it, we will remain together strong.
We march together, in respectful silence.
Justice our quest,
And until it is delivered, none of us shall rest.
None of us shall play,
none of us will ever just get on with our day.
Forever changed from that day forward in solace,
as we are taunted by the memory,
we see the event on replay.
Behind our eyes, inside our minds.
Sometimes there’s a reprieve for a sec when I
see my kids play.

But then it rushes back and its back to that day.
Back to the start.
Back to hearing every beat of my heart.
Back to the stairs,
back to the fear,
my heart and feet pounding in my ears.
Pulsating adrenaline giving me strength
to carry my child and run with my fear.
Run for my life.
Run down the stairs.
Cant find the right door.
Can’t escape.
How can I see myself outside of myself
feeling so helpless this way.
Follow my husband.
He leads the way.
Those flashing lights.

The fire brigade are here,
I think it’s gonna be alright.
How horrific it seems,
how horrific it was,
that day terrorises my every thought,
my every day is blighted since that fire ignited
and consumed my home,
our homes, their homes.
Yet some of them lie,
some of them pretend and like to say
that this happened to them but it didn’t happen that way.

We are not the same.
I am not the same,
In myself I have changed.
I look for escapes inside every building,
literally every room.
Sometimes with my kids we pretend it’s a game
but it’s my way to keep us safe after this.
How can I not, after this happened to us,
not them I see.

It was my house,
wrapped in that plastic cladding like Lego
I see. I survived. I see.
Our lives are precious and priceless at least,
how can you justify a saving of 2 pounds
per square feet?
I guess we will see.
Well that’s what I’m told.
When the inquiry is ongoing,
life changed from when the fire started,
my life feels on hold.

Justice, I hear.
Justice, I seek.
Please don’t overlook or forget about those
who still breathe.
Caught up in the mele,
caught up in the scrum,
feels like they’re making me beg for a scrap or a crumb.
What did we do that warrants this behaviour?
I cannot breathe,
I am numb.

Not all have been housed,
some still in emergency accommodation,
AKA stage 1.
I’m in need of readjusting to community,
I’m in need of a place, in need of a house,
of some personal space,
some space of my own,
some respite,
a place to call home.
In need of some answers,
not just for the community from St Helens to St Francis,
but for those of us who survived this.

The reports seem like we’re settled,
I long for this to be true.
Do you know how this feels?
Has this happened to you?
Has this shredded your life?
Disassembled your mind?
Can you say that your trauma is like mine?
Can you imagine the sights?
The worst horror movie will never prepare
your eyes from seeing what was actually there.
But “return to work and pay bills and get on with life”,
What about the struggles, the scars the strife?

Can you imagine the firefighters now with PTSD?
This was their work,
they were prepared and yet still witnessed the worst.
How does someone cope with these facts?
These images that are forever embossed.
Whether or not I like it, my attention is engrossed.
Whisked back to the start
to the door knock, to the first.
Around we go in a loop I hope is not eternal.

Everywhere I look, I see that towering inferno.